Robert Zeglinski, October 13th, 2014
History and tradition mean a lot in the professional world of sports.
Franchises with a history of contention and winning or those teams that are the cornerstones of a league in a large market, will always garner more attention from fans.
I think if you went through a classification of the Big 4 leagues of who these “traditional” and ” big time” attention teams are, you would have this (in no particular order);
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Dallas Cowboys
3. Chicago Bears
4. Green Bay Packers
5. San Francisco 49ers
1. New York Yankees
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
5. Chicago Cubs (The lovable losers have people talking regardless of failure)
1. Boston Celtics
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Chicago Bulls
4. New York Knicks
5. San Antonio Spurs (Duncan era has made them the 4th most successful NBA franchise)
(Obviously most of the Original Six)
1. Montreal Canadiens
2. Detroit Red Wings
3. New York Rangers
4. Chicago Blackhawks (Chicago has turned into “Hawkeytown” again)
5. Boston Bruins
Most of these franchises have had some consistent history of winning, are enjoying current success, or are involved in such a prominent media market, that the spotlight is never off of them. In my mind it’s safe to say these are the “glamour” teams of each of these respective leagues. These are the teams that will have the largest and most devoted fan-bases in turn creating the biggest attention for these sports.
Further building off of that, theoretically, it’s great for the NBA or NFL when the Lakers or Steelers are doing well, right?
People are getting emotionally invested in the big team’s seasons. There is increased media and advertising traffic and ultimately more profit is being made. But here’s where I draw a line on this point.
Bob Costas of NBC Sports offered a little insight on the Dallas Cowboys in his regularly scheduled speech during halftime of “Sunday Night Football”. The Cowboys have statistically been the most mediocre team in the NFL ever since winning the Super Bowl in the 1995-1996 season.
A .500 team in every way imaginable at least defined by that record.
Costas found it fair to insinuate that one of the league’s proposed “glamour” teams doing well is good for the NFL in reference to the Cowboys comfortable win over the defending SB champions, Seattle Seahawks, on the road to push them to 5-1. He brought up all of the points that I have about media attention and size of fanbase yet here’s where I contradict the broadcasting legend.
There is no America’s team (we’ve heard this before).
Just because teams have wider ranging fan bases across the country based off bandwagon-ism (or other probably more valid reasons) does not mean they’re success is more validated than say a traditional middle of the pack team like the Tennessee Titans.
The Dallas Cowboys do not nor have they ever represented the majority of the attention the NFL receives.
Sure, media outlets like ESPN will nonetheless divulge attention towards them (mostly to cover their recent collapses) but Dallas being a respectable contender does not necessarily mean the NFL is better off.
Yes it’s much more fun to watch sports when those “powerhouses” like the Lakers or Celtics are contenders in the NBA, but what benefit is it to the rest of these leagues?
Parity sells. Parity brings interest.
I disagree with any notion that a league that’s very top heavy (like the NBA) is better off having a few true contenders battle it out. Stars sell, but so does winning. When you have more teams involved like say the Grizzlies or Raptors, more fan bases are involved and invested in your product. The sentiment of mystique brings too little to the table.
Past history and past tradition too often defines media and fan expectations. Just because a team has that sort of “aura” of success around them, does not mean they deserve any more recognition for what they do, nor will it mean more. I think we forget that idea a lot as we see pro football writers in a frenzy today over Dallas’s 5-1 start.
Professional sports goes through cycles. Yes the perennial smart management of teams will define their team’s consistency but a cycle of parity will always work more.
For example, the NFL has had just about 6 different new playoff teams every year for the better part of the past decade. The Giants, Steelers, 49ers, etc. have all heavily factored into that playoff formula but the NFL has grown into the dominant greedy beast entity it is today because it sells “hope” of a new year so well. Namely, everyone’s collective success. Nothing shows that better than the routine playoff rotation.
It’s nice to have Dallas being respectable (before a possible collapse later, can’t emphasize this enough) but it just feels so mundane and repetitive to think they mean any more than another team in the league. It’s a tired overreaction by all of us collectively in the sports world.
We could have the Cowboys, Steelers, Giants, Bears etc. (especially the Bears for me, not shy about the bias, I’ll really emphasize this one!) all be contenders for the Super Bowl, but the alternative addition never crosses your mind?
In addition (or lack of) we could have the Browns, Titans, Jaguars, Rams, Bills etc. be consistent successes as Super Bowl contenders.
The whole league would be involved. Sports would be more fun with less sadness for those poor fans of course. Apply the same method to any of your other favorite sports leagues. Just look at college football this year. Powerhouses like Alabama and Oregon have fallen down the totem pole and there are so many teams involved for the playoff previously seen as afterthoughts like Mississippi State or Ole Miss.
Glory teams and franchise pieces are nice most of the time, but chaos and a swinging of the pendulum are so much fun as an added wrinkle.
“How bout them Cowboys”? need not apply.
(Photo Credit: 12thmanrising)
Robert Zeglinski is an aspiring sportswriter who absolutely loves all the nitty gritty that comes with pro sports. He is currently attending Aurora University in Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigZags82 or reach him through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for questions or feedback.